Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Within the confines of a smallish cottage situated (probably now) on the coast of England, Rose (Ariel Bock), entering with a bloody nose, and old friend, Hazel (Diane Prusha) talk. Hazel tends to Rose's face and the women, in their mid-sixties, speak of animals and the farmland Hazel and her husband Robin (Jonathan Epstein) own. They also converse about the effects of a meltdown at a nearby nuclear power plant. All three have worked there, but now, after the terrifying accident, Robin and Hazel, unable to stay in their main home due to a tsunami, have arranged to stay at a borrowed cottage. Rose seemingly arrives at the cottage just out of the blue. Hazel hasn't seen the woman for years. For a long while, the conversation flows swiftly between two women who do not seem totally at ease with one another. When Robin enters and cavorts about on a small child's bike, he brings zest and his deep voice. The atmosphere (within a rustic set designed by Patrick Brennan) shifts.
Hazel repeats that she does yoga in an effort to maintain sound body and mind. Still, retirement and negative possibilities for people of this age become dominant topics for early conversation. Hazel does say, "If you're not going to grow, don't live." She and Robin have children and it is their adult daughter who is still a problem. Hazel prepares salad for all to eat as she continues to speak. Hazel is, with knowledge of some past goings-on, testy when the three characters are together in the room. Trust ebbs.
For more than an hour as the first act transpires, the three high-level actors deliver Kirkwood's dialogue with clean dexterity. Just before the stage goes dark for intermission, Rose has a line that piques interest and sets up the final component of the play. She is now decisive in her course of action.
There is some mystery lining Kirkwood's play. First, why the title? Secondly, is there more than meets the eye in terms of relationships amongst the three characters in this play? Director James Warwick and these three affecting actors keep things moving forward, but Kirkwood's script does not (through this production) encourage significant suspense. A disaster has occurred and three individuals are in discussion. Hazel has welcomed Rose but not with a huge quantity of warmth. The actors get the details right and when Jonathan Epstein is on stage he brings gusto and complexity.
The playwright is building toward another big revelation and this one draws focus for the current generation of baby boomers, with responsibility, concern, and care for the next generation: the children. Kirkwood's second act speaks to that emotional issue and the playwright, now writing with some greater cogency, creates crescendo.
This is a play which is both personal and, given a world which many think is currently altered through climactic change, socio-political. To her credit, Kirkwood infuses the early going with some levity and this is most welcome.
Diane Prusha has acted with Shakespeare & Company for more than 20 seasons, while Ariel Bock and Jonathan Epstein have appeared with the troupe for more than 30. All three perform with purpose, understanding, and enviable technique.
The Children could be more audacious during its first hour. Conflict is apparent but narrative tension is limited. The subject matter is quite pertinent, and the characters are fully embodied. One wishes for even more.
The Children, through August 18, 2019, at Shakespeare & Company, Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre, 70 Kemble St., Lenox MA. For tickets, call 413-637-3353 or visit shakespeare.org.